Enfolded and Nurtured in the “Claustrum”

In the Cloister with Hopper

In the Cloister with Hopper

Cloister” (from the Latin claustrum, “enclosed place”) connotes being shut away from the world.  Architecturally, the medieval church cloister embodied the seclusion of the spiritual life, the vita contemplativa.  At Moissac, as elsewhere, the cloister provided the monks (and nuns) with a foretaste of Paradise.

Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages

. . . I feared for the necessary time and privacy to make my own art–without which personal experience I could not continue to help others.  . . . Inch by inch, I retreated to the solitude of my personal creative laboratory–the still, quiet place within myself where I could make art and learn from the making of it.  . . .  Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel . . . 

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

I could not have asked for a superior beginning to this day.  Waking at 5:20 a.m. without an alarm, I was able to enter my classroom one full hour before the 7:35 Advanced Placement Art History class arrived.  The school was still quiet and dark in the pre-dawn, and I needed some time to look at the email I received from Courtney Jordan’s “Artist Daily” (I am a happy subscriber).  It seemed fortuitous that the article was titled “Drawing Lessons from Edward Hopper.”  I happened to bring to school with me the catalogue from the current Dallas Museum of Art exhibit: “Hopper/Drawing”.  It was my  intention to study the book and continue sketching architecture.  Thanks to the catalogue, the timely morning email, and an hour of space, I was able to do some thumbnail sketches of architecture and read further the materials I have on Edward Hopper’s drawing habits.

Our focus in A. P. Art History today was Chartres Cathedral and the notion of sacred space.  And the sacredness attached to my morning watch in the cloister had a way of remaining with me throughout what would turn out to be a torturous school day, followed by hours of afternoon and evening prep for tomorrow’s classes (totally different than today’s classes).  I am on the same page as Julia Cameron.  I believe that my only hope for being an effective educator is having something to share that goes beyond nuts-and-bolts preparation work and meetings.  And that cultivation of a life worth sharing comes only from moments of solitude.  Preparation of self is much more valuable than preparation of lesson plans.  I managed to open the day with the necessary quiet and space to prepare myself, and now here I am at 10:09 p.m., grateful to have some silence before bedtime.  I’ve worked some more on the Fort Worth flatiron building that I began yesterday.  The cornice work is painstaking and tedious, but I am loving the precision and detail of it all, and taking my sweet time rendering the corbels.  It’s still early, but this small 9 x 12″ piece is already taking hold of me.

O.K.  Thanks for reading.  I’m going to return to the watercolor before I get sleepy.  Moments such as this are rare these days.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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